More and more research is being conducted on the systems of bacteria and other microorganisms that play important roles in our bodies. Along with this research has come the push for probiotics, typically pills or capsules containing beneficial bacteria.
You may have considered probiotics for yourself, but did you know that pets, too, can benefit from a daily probiotic? Many holistic vets are encouraging the administration of probiotics for cats to help bolster their immune systems, regulate digestive tract issues and promote lifelong health.
What are probiotics?
Throughout the body and within the colon, in particular, lives a complex ecosystem of bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms. This is true for both humans and pets.
This microbiome is supposed to be carefully balanced for lifelong health. However, many things can throw it out of whack, resulting in the death of good microorganisms and the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms.
Certain bacteria, called probiotics, live in the gut and benefit the microbiome as a whole by supporting the intestinal lining and keeping harmful overgrowths in check. Unfortunately, probiotics can easily be disrupted by things like a poor diet, stress, illness and antibiotic use.
Probiotic supplements ultimately help introduce more of these beneficial bacteria to the colon to help those colonies grow and restore balance to the gut. Many supplements also include things called prebiotics, which are fibers and other nutrients that feed the probiotics and help them thrive.
Benefits of probiotics for cats
There are numerous benefits probiotics can have for your furry friend.
Like in humans, a large portion of your cat’s immune system actually resides in its colon. Since probiotics help maintain a healthy digestive tract, they also help support proper immune system function; studies show that when the digestive tract is not healthy, neither is the immune system.
Creating a robust immune system is imperative to keeping your cat healthy. When the immune system is adequately supported, your cat may be less likely to develop a variety of illnesses and ailments, from bacterial infections and colds to potentially even major problems like cancer.
GI tract health
Over time, imbalances of good and harmful bacteria and microflora can cause digestive problems in cats. A healthy balance is very important to a healthy and well-functioning intestinal tract.
Cats that suffer from ailments like irritable bowel disease (IBD), frequent diarrhea, food sensitivities and more may find relief from gastrointestinal discomfort after starting to take probiotics. This is because the supplements repopulate the healthy gut bacteria and restore balance for better function.
Even cats without GI issues can benefit, though. Probiotics may help prevent these types of problems from developing, especially as your cat ages, as well as improve the formation of your cat’s stool and improve overall comfort.
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary to help our cats get over bacterial infections of the skin, respiratory systems and more. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not picky when it comes to killing off bacteria throughout the body. Both good and bad bacteria are eradicated after antibiotic use.
This opens your cat up to the risk of experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort, since the microflora in the gut have been disrupted. There is also an increased risk of harmful bacteria flourishing in the gut without the beneficial bacteria there to stop them.
Giving your cat probiotics during and after antibiotic administration can help repopulate these eradicated strains of healthy bacteria so your cat experiences fewer disruptions in gastrointestinal health, immune function and more.
Overall, probiotics have the capability to set your cat up for lifelong health thanks to their instrumental role in bolstering immunity. For this reason, it is not necessary to wait until your cat has an existing problem and symptoms to give probiotics. They can and should be given daily for a simple boost to health.
Choosing a probiotic for your cat
Probiotics formulated for humans should never be given to your cat. Humans and pets have differing microbiomes, so certain strains of probiotics will be more beneficial to cats than to humans, and vice versa.
Instead, you should choose a probiotic supplement that is specifically formulated for cats to get the best results. Find a probiotic specially formulated for cats that includes a diverse set of bacterial strains.
Diversity is extremely important in the gut. Every type of bacteria performs its own unique function, so you want to be sure there is a healthy mix for the best balance. Specifically, Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus bacterium should be present in your cat’s supplement.
Finally, never add a probiotic to your pet’s daily routine without talking to your cat’s veterinarian. Your vet may be able to recommend a probiotic they trust or give you guidance on dosages and usage for your cat’s optimal health.